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Elegance, minimalism, and sustainability in desserts - reducing fat, sugar, etc. (help request)


afn33282
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I'm inspired by the idea of desserts with *just enough* sugar and fat to get the job done.

 

* I feel like in my cultural background, desserts are a "special occasion" thing, or a "guilty pleasure".  I'm inspired by old-world cuisines where sweets seem to fit, to me, more holistically into the *gestalt* of everyday living.

 

* aesthetic reasons.  I feel that when one uses *just enough* sugar, and *just enough* fat, the dessert acquires an elegance of balance and simplicity, and also, lets other ingredients (milk in a custard for example) shine.

 

* habit reasons.  I'm just starting to learn pastry.  I want to practice and eat sweets every day!  And I think how well-balanced a recipe is is more important to how happy my body is, rather than how much fat and sugar is in a serving. *Proportions*, rather than *amounts*.   I suspect I could eat a whole lemon meringue pie daily if the recipe was dialed in right.

 

I shudder at and am immediately suspicious of recipes with the word "Healthy" in the title.  I grew up eating chicken-fried steak like a good country boy, in the 80s, when everything was "lite" and we were all scared of fat.

 

I hope I've conveyed, rather, the sense of what I'm angling towards.  Anyone have advice, tips, recipes, or experiences along these lines?  Encouraging remarks welcome, natch.

Edited by afn33282 (log)
Frau Farbissma: "It's a television commercial! With this cartoon leprechaun! And all of these children are trying to chase him...Hey leprechaun! Leprechaun! We want to get your lucky charms! Haha! Oh, and there's all these little tiny bits of marshmallow just stuck right in the cereal so that when the kids eat them, they think, 'Oh this is candy! I'm having fun!'"
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As an example:

 

I just made my first apple pie.  Didn't add sugar to the apples, and was delighted to find out that they came out quite sweet enough (Galas), and the fragrance was nectar-ish and powerful, unmitigated by the possible cloying effects of sugar.

 

But the crust had 6 oz of butter.  It didn't help or hurt that I ate half the pie for breakfast (the other half to the roomies).  Those who remember MFK Fisher's essay on gorging will sympathize.  But I can't eat nearly half a pound of butter everytime I get a hankering for apples.

 

I was deeply inspired by Franci's contributions here to LindaK's olive oil pastry thread.  If you look at the pictures, the pastry is beautiful.  And I can certainly eat a Tb of oil any time.

 

I think another word I could have included in the title of this thread is "naturalism", a la anyone's heroes, Elizabeth David and Richard Olney.

 

note:  I didn't peel the apples either.  It was the right move.

Edited by afn33282 (log)
Frau Farbissma: "It's a television commercial! With this cartoon leprechaun! And all of these children are trying to chase him...Hey leprechaun! Leprechaun! We want to get your lucky charms! Haha! Oh, and there's all these little tiny bits of marshmallow just stuck right in the cereal so that when the kids eat them, they think, 'Oh this is candy! I'm having fun!'"
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I have no specific suggestions except vague things like 'try using less sugar or fat', but I know what you mean. I hate substitutes (don't bother me with stevia, much less aspartame) but have found that slight reductions in the sweetness level suit my tastes better. A fair number of my recipes have comments like 'try less' written on them, and good fruit is often sweet enough by itself.

One other trick that works sometimes, not always, is to omit the pastry: do an apple pie filling without the tart shell. I don't do that often, but I've been known to make a quiche without the pastry.

There's a certain cognitive dissonance between chicken fried steak and 'lite'. How did you manage that? :-)

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Smithy,

 

Thanks for the moral support and commiseration. :)  It's good to have co-recognition on this.

 

 

There's a certain cognitive dissonance between chicken fried steak and 'lite'. How did you manage that? :-)

 

By avoiding anything with the word "lite"  :D.  My parents were no fools.  They both taught me how to eat, in different ways.  And my grandmother, too.  Also it was their worldliness that let me to old-school cuisines in the first place.

 

 

I might as well tack on that I'm also interested in economy of method.

  • Here is a one-step recipe for creme patisserie.
  • And here is a tart dough recipe starting with melted butter in boiling water (per Mme. Paule Caillat, via David Lebovitz, which I discovered on eGullet here).

 

 

Smithy, thanks again.  Do you have any recipes or general ideas you recommend?

Edited by afn33282 (log)
Frau Farbissma: "It's a television commercial! With this cartoon leprechaun! And all of these children are trying to chase him...Hey leprechaun! Leprechaun! We want to get your lucky charms! Haha! Oh, and there's all these little tiny bits of marshmallow just stuck right in the cereal so that when the kids eat them, they think, 'Oh this is candy! I'm having fun!'"
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I have to work hard to maintain my weight (I went from a size 14 to a size 8 about 15 years ago and have kept the weight off).  

 

I find the best solution for desserts is portion control.  I don't make 'low fat, low sugar' recipes;  I make the most luscious recipes I can find.  BUT, but I only allow myself a tablespoon of mousse; a slice of pie the equivalent of 1/32 a pie.  When I make panna cotta, I use wide shot glasses; when I cut brownies, they're never more than 1" squares.  I freeze leftovers and only thaw a few portions at a time.  I eat desserts/sweets just a few times a week and usually mid-afternoon, then take a nice long walk (I average 2 miles a day walking). 

 

That's what works for me, YMMV.

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I make half or a quarter of   the sweet recipes,  I have gotten tins that suit making smaller amounts of cake and sum such. Funny part is,  big pie or small pie, we eat the same amount, half a pie , shows you how much you eat with your eyes  and we are two adults and 1 kid.  I also dont do  "American cookies",   those  in my world  HUGE cookies,  I make the old Swedish ones that are small about a   less then a inch a cross. I also make my muffins in old muffin tins, which makes them the size of a ping pong ball.

 

And I am fat and I cant  change that, due to medical reason , the doctor has said I am fine, I am healthy minus the medical  problem I do have.

Cheese is you friend, Cheese will take care of you, Cheese will never betray you, But blue mold will kill me.

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I eat desserts/sweets just a few times a week and usually mid-afternoon

 

 

gulfporter, mid-afternoon is the most civilized time of day for something sweet, if you ask me.  With coffee.  But a slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast post-Thanksgiving week never hurt anyone.   ;)

 

I know what you mean about luscious desserts, too.  That small, intense portion of something can satisfy as deeply and soundly as a big bowl of something else.

 

But I'm hoping to work out a complimentary vector to the richer style of dessert.  For example, gelato has less sugar than American ice cream, and less fat.  But I have to say, for me, that it delivers just as much.

 

And I admit this is somewhat a matter of preference.  For example, I like Philadelphia-style ice cream (eggless, like Breyer's) to custard-based ice cream.  Also, fairly said, it can be considered a matter of exploring a style that can exist happily alongside a richer style.

 

But really, my motivation is that I balk at the idea of self-control.  I'm trying to find a loophole here, shhhh!

 

 

 

I make the old Swedish ones that are small about a   less then a inch a cross

 

CatPoet, you're really evoking the old-world aesthetic I'm going for.  Smaller cookies, yes!  I think you're hitting the same note that gulfporter was referring to - when something is done well, it only takes a little bit to satisfy.

 

Where did you buy your tins?

 

I do, however, stand in defense of eating one's fill.  Sometimes I want to put down two pounds of apples.  Now to figure out how to do that in a pie, five days a week.

Edited by afn33282 (log)
Frau Farbissma: "It's a television commercial! With this cartoon leprechaun! And all of these children are trying to chase him...Hey leprechaun! Leprechaun! We want to get your lucky charms! Haha! Oh, and there's all these little tiny bits of marshmallow just stuck right in the cereal so that when the kids eat them, they think, 'Oh this is candy! I'm having fun!'"
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If you're talking about baking at home, by all means play with sugar ratios.  A lot of recipes have room to cut the sugar without compromising texture - your pie is a good example.  Fat is no longer the enemy, but you still probably want to work on portion control and stick to "healthy' fats (I don't think butter has anyone's approval to be eaten with abandon, unfortunately).

 

If you're talking about putting together a restaurant dessert menu, you want a range.  You will have customers looking for that over the top indulgence that they've been waiting all week to splurge on.  Rich chocolate desserts are always going to sell, and people do still appreciate a small portion of something rich.  At the end of a nice meal with wine you don't often want a huge dessert, even if it is lighter.  But you also should offer something light and something on the less sweet side, and make sure you have at least one gluten free option and ideally a vegan option.  A sorbet dressed up with multiple garnishes and plated prettily can still seem fancy for people on restricted diets.

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gulfporter, mid-afternoon is the most civilized time of day for something sweet, if you ask me.  With coffee.  

My sweet treat is often accompanied by a 'short' sherry or port.....shhhhhhhhhhh, our little secret!

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Smithy, thanks again. Do you have any recipes or general ideas you recommend?

In addition to ideas already posted here there are interesting substitutions that can be made for fat, such as applesauce or, according to everything I've read, pureed prunes in certain cakes. Don't laugh until you've tried it. I have a good chocolate cake recipe that uses no butter or shortening; it uses applesauce (and possibly a little vegetable oil, I can't remember offhand). The fat content is much lower than in most cakes, and there is no saturated fat in it if you use the right oil.

I've also been experimenting with roasting or searing fruits and vegetables to get them to brown gently. Those browning reactions (including caramelization) capitalize on the natural sugars and enhance the sweetness. Following this strategy and topping with good balsamic vinegar is a way to cut back on sugar without compromising on flavor.

And yes, there is the dreaded portion control, but it's easier if the portions can be small instead of microscopic. :-)

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Afn:  we have our fill even though we dont eat that much.   And we have learned to eat slower since over eating most often come from eating too fast .  Enjoy every bit we take  out of the sweets we have,hence I make it  as high end  ingredients I can afford.

 

And I have bought all my tins on Amazon.co.uk,  the mini version are too expensive in Sweden and even with shipping I pay less.

 

I do some where have a apple recipe that takes 2 pounds  of apples and cook it down for a pie  or just 2 pounds of apple in a crumble pie for  6 servings.

Cheese is you friend, Cheese will take care of you, Cheese will never betray you, But blue mold will kill me.

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Many things simply don't work if you don't put the full amount of fat or sugar into them- for example, enough butter into a pastry case or enough sugar into a meringue.  I would recommend working on your technique, learning the basics and mastering classic desserts before trying to mess around with proportions.  From my experience, it's better to know the classic techniques inside out before you start trying to change the fundamentals: that way you know what's gone wrong and why it's gone wrong.

 

Then you can just eat less of the desserts and make lots of friends by giving the rest away :)

 

PS: I don't think that crème pâtissière recipe is any more ergonomic than the traditional one.  In fact, it seems like much more work as you're constantly stirring the milk from cold, rather than just the last 30 seconds.

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I was deeply inspired by Franci's contributions here to LindaK's olive oil pastry thread.  If you look at the pictures, the pastry is beautiful.  And I can certainly eat a Tb of oil any time.

 

Maybe this is not really elegant but going back to the olive oil pastry. These were my favorite cookies growing up. With real grape jam and walnuts (not the american concord jam!). In my part of the world cookies were 90% almonds and very little fat (and often lard or olive oil).

 

I don't know, maybe I'm reaching a life crisis. My years in the South of France personally help me to get rid of any fat phobia I might have had in the past,  now I cut off all grains and I'm trying to limit my sugar. American books are full of these options but more American in taste, I wish I can adapt to more familiar flavors for me. Overall, American sweets are very sweet for me. I don't know if this could be helpful,  but for now I'm looking forward to

Alice Medrich new book

very curious to this

and this

also love to look at Aran Goyoaga beautiful blog

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20141007_151521_zps0c37acd8.jpg

 

Pie filling with 2 pounds of apples  (  the picture shows just half a batch)

1 pound of tart apples 

1 pounds sweet.

1/3 cup  raw cane sugar

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of  vanilla

2 tablespoon of  butter

1 tablespoon of water.

2 tablespoon of cornstarch

 Peel the sweet apples  and cut into cubes.  In a pan add   Sugar, water and butter. When the butter is  smelted  add the  sweet apples and cinnamon  and let it  simmer  for 15- 20 min. The apples should be broken down into a goo by then and it should have reduce to half in size.   While  the apples  are cooking  peel and cut the tart apples into bite size cubes.  Stir them in and let  it  cook with the sweet apples  for  5- 10 minutes, until  just tender.  Add the vanilla and stir. Let it cool down to hand hot. dust over the cornstarch while stirring. Now add this to any  pie case, put on lid and bake as you would do.

Cheese is you friend, Cheese will take care of you, Cheese will never betray you, But blue mold will kill me.

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